Catchy logos and snappy slogans are easily recognizable and provide a vehicle to deliver messages to the customer. Like any well-designed tool, utility is the foundation for any good brand. Let’s go under-the-hood and examine a who-what-where strategy, where good brand utility supports successful message delivery.
At ten years old, my collection of hockey cards was one of my favorite possessions — all the players were separated by team and displayed in pages (and pages) of clear-plastic sleeves. I decided there was one thing missing — team logos. So, I drew every NHL logo and made dividers for each team… and learned a lot about logo design.
• Logo — arguably the most critical piece of the branding puzzle, a great logo reflects a special mix of technical and creative thought. Everyone has opinions on favorite logos, but a logo with good brand utility will work in both large and small formats — if it looks weird on a poster and indistinguishable when thumbnail-sized, it’s probably not a good logo. Similarly, a complex design can have problems when reproduced and/or reprinted on a variety of media.
• Colors — If a company or client has a specific palette or color for their brand, it is essential for hexadecimal, RGB and CMYK numbers to be paid extra attention. Guessing at colors or choosing something that looks similar can result in dramatic inconsistencies—blue looks purple; red appears orange or brown; yellow like mustard or highlighter—all of these situations are preventable by knowing the appropriate color codes.
• Font — when a word or name appears with/without a logo, it is referred to as logotype. This is often the stylized letters that match the logo. It is essential that logotype is not replaced with a random set of letters, which will look awkward and diminish brand utility wherever it is used. Similarly, it is ideal to use the same font family across all branded content. Changing from one font to another looks unprofessional and can cause major issues with spacing, etc. Having a variety of faces within the same font family helps resolve design issues or desires to use a mix of different fonts. Prevent surprises by ensuring all fonts are outlined before submitting branded collateral to third-party printers or vendors.
“What is the story about? Now, what is it really all about?”
• Topic + Theme — the home team wins + record-breaking come-from-behind victory. See the difference? Winning the game is the topic, but the story or theme is what made the game special.
To develop this perspective, it can be helpful to imagine a customer who is unfamiliar with our brand. Imagine a view from the outside-looking-in. We are a SaaS company + our solution saves money.
• Context — bad branding is like explaining a joke—it’s just not funny 🙂 Using context can eliminate excessive information and unneeded explanations, which allows for a concise message that resonates with customers.
The real world, that’s where! Don’t develop brand strategy in a vacuum.
• Organic Interest — Examine paid, earned and owned channels—look for a natural equilibrium in the given industry, where key decision makers and subject matter experts (SME) regularly exchange information. Find a way to connect with current and potential customers and SMEs—determine areas of organic interest within the industry and ensure (the) branded content fits in those channels.
• Alignment — Focus on the fit and alignment for the message across multiple channels, understanding the technical limitations and/or devices used by the customer within the channel. This extends to all types of branded content, where managing the assets and message is critical—avoiding improperly displayed text, image issues or (other) risks to the customer experience.
Brand utility is the summation of all brand assets and how they work together to form a clear and concise message about who is offering a product or service to the customer; what is the value in the product; and where the exchange of information is taking place. Take a moment to review and compare brands to see these factors in action.